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RCMP seeks public’s help in identifying reconstructed faces

Partially completed clay facial reconstruction of an unidentified missing person.

Their identities are unknown — some, for several decades.

Now the RCMP, along with the British Columbia Coroners Service and the Nova Scotia Medical Examiner, is unveiling the reconstructed faces of 15 unidentified human remains and are hoping that, with the public’s help, they will soon learn their names.

“Every face tells a story and these are 15 individuals who deserve to have their stories told,” said Chief Superintendent Marie-Claude Arsenault, officer in charge of RCMP sensitive and specialized investigative services.

“We started with unidentified remains, then a face, and we are hoping to end each of their stories with a name. We are asking the public to take a close look at the faces and the descriptions and submit a tip if they have any information about any of the individuals.”

“Any detail, no matter how small it may seem, could be the missing piece of the puzzle.”

During the week of Jan. 6, students at the New York Academy of Art reconstructed the faces of 15 Canadian unidentified remains discovered in British Columbia and Nova Scotia between 1972 and 2019.

However, these victims could be from anywhere.

The RCMP is asking the public to look at the profiles on Canada’s Missing,, share the photos, and spread the word.

The RCMP encourages anyone who thinks they might recognize a face to submit tips on the Canada’s Missing Web site.

Traditionally, when human remains are found, investigators use a variety of methods to identify the person.

They may compare the remains to descriptions of reported missing persons.

They can send samples for DNA testing, or search dental records.

Often, these methods yield results, but when they are unsuccessful, police, coroners and medical examiners might turn to more creative methods.

The academy’s forensic sculpture workshop was led by Joe Mullins, a senior forensic artist with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in the U.S.

The British Columbia Coroners Service and the Nova Scotia Medical Examiner provided information such as sex, ethnicity, and height.

Armed with that knowledge, as well as their anatomical expertise and artistic skills, the students spent the week reconstructing the faces by applying clay to 3D-printed versions of actual skulls.

“Our hope is that these reconstructions will trigger a memory that results in someone connecting with us or the RCMP which will lead us to identifying these individuals,” said Eric Petit, director of the special investigations unit of the British Columbia Coroners Service. “This collaborative project builds on other identification tools, including our unidentified human remains viewer, to help us close cold cases in our province.”

The reconstructed faces will go on display in New York in April 2020, as part of the New York Academy of Art’s Open Studios event.

The New York Academy of Art has hosted its forensic sculpture workshop annually since 2015.

Since 2015, four visual identifications have been directly attributed to facial reconstructions performed during the workshop.

It took students about 40 hours to complete each facial reconstruction.

There are more than 700 unidentified human remains in the RCMP’s national database of missing persons and unidentified remains. 

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